How to make softwood cuttings

How to Make Softwood Cuttings


Several kinds of desirable plants can be started from softwood cuttings taken between mid-June and mid -July.  These include evergreen azaleas, roses, deciduous magnolias, forsythia, viburnum, English Ivy, Pyracantha, abelia, privet, mock orange and butterfly bush.

A softwood cutting is one taken from new growth.  New growth roots quicker than older root growth usually in 8 to 10 weeks.  A fast rooting process is vital to a cutting’s survival since it can only live a limited time without roots.  This is why it is almost impossible to root a branch that has been broken or cut off a shrub or a cut Christmas tree.  Making cuttings from these plants involves trying to get roots from wood that is at least two years old.  For best results, select cuttings from young wood that snaps like fresh string beans.  If the cuttings are soft and rubbery and do not snap, they are not suitable.

Plenty of moisture is also essential if the cutting is to survive.  When the air around the cutting is moist, the leaves give off much less moisture, thus reducing the chances of wilting.  It is possible to create a miniature greenhouse by enclosing the potted cutting in polyethylene plastic.  Plant the cutting in a pot and completely enclose the pot with plastic.

Since the plastic is permeable to air and impermeable to water vapor, carbon dioxide and oxygen can flow in and out, and water vapor can be retained inside the plastic.

For small lots of cuttings, use clean clay pots of about 6" in diameter.  Each pot should hold about 6 cuttings.  A good mixture for rooting the cuttings is 1 part sphagnum peat, 1 part clean sand, and 1 part vermiculite or perlite.  Early morning is the best time to take cuttings.

With a sharp knife, make the cut about 1/4" below a node (the junction of a leaf and stem).  Remove the lower leaves, leaving two or three at the top.  Cuttings should be planted immediately, but they can be stored for a few days in a slightly moist plastic bag in the refrigerator.  A hormone can be used to speed rooting, - Rootone or Hormodin.  In about eight weeks, check the cuttings to see if they are rooted.  When roots are about one inch long, the cuttings can be planted in individual pots or in the garden outdoors.  Shade them for a week or two after transplanting to help them become established.  Don’t forget to keep them watered!